Trinidad and Tobago - Play Whe - Chinapoo - Whe Whe

Website playwhe

In ancient pastime, Play Whe was known as Chinapoo; a numbers game played by persons who where influenced by intutition , superstition, dreams and caprice.

Brought to Trinidad by Chinese immigrants, Play Whe was traditionally called "Whe Whe".
No longer in its original form, it has been creolised, acquiring words (marks) like Jamette (#16 : Low Class Man or Woman), Crapaud (#13 Frog), Corbeau (#11: Vulture), Coco Bay (#24: Eye Infection ro Leprosy, from the name of the bay at Chacachacare where there was once a leper colony).It has retained one Chinese word, albeit corrupted, 'Tie Pin', correctly T'ai P'ing (#12: Heavenly Kingdom).

The Symbol of Play Whe is a drawing of the Chinaman jumbie, or Chinapoo.
His anatomy is divided into some 36 segments, Each marked with either mark, partner or spirit numbers, depending on the chart.

Other sources

Caribbean Child-Ple weh
WUZDESCENE: Shrimp, Shrimps and Strimps!

Descendants of the dragon: the Chinese in Trinidad 1806-2006 By Kim Johnson

The numbers game of dreams

In Beyond A Boundary CI.R. James described how the Chinese immigrant worked his way from clerk in a shop to eventually owning it.
"This man, after about fifteen years, would be seized with a passion for cricket. He did not play it himself but he sponsored the local village team". He "godfathered poor boys who could play" and on the day of the match "you could see him surrounded by the locals, following every ball with a passionate intensity that he gave only to his business."
What James did not realize was that he had probably also wagered his business on the match, for despite their forays into the sporting world, the true Chinese recreation, which they sometimes carried to the point of obsession, was gambling, starting with whe whe, the numbers game of dreams.
It was based on the numbers or "marks" I to 36, each representing a particular symbol such as centipede ( 1 ), old lady (2), carriage (3) and so forth. Each mark has an affinity with a "partner" and some with a "spirit".
So the partner of 1 is 5 (parson man) and its spirit is 4 (dead man).
Players chose a mark on which to bet through a range of mystical methods, including body and numerical charts, dreams, unexpected events and idiosyncratic rules of interpreting these. A dream with an airplane would indicate 3 (carriage) , but there was considerably room for ambiguity. The "banker" secretly chose winning marks with the use of a Chinese chart, which was jealously guarded. It was then communicated to the players - that is, the mark was bus' -on a roll ot paper suspended from a roof or tree. A mark could not be played twice the same day.
Marks were bus' twice every day of the week, generally at midday and 4 pm, at secret locations called a "turf." Bets initially ranged from I to 30 cents and the odds varied according to the banker's resources.
It was a business and as such bankers had to please their clientele, helping out people in need and distributing drinks at Christmas.



2Old lady24
4Dead Man35
5Parson Man14
15Sick Woman196
18Water Boat10
23Big House2821
27Little Snake3026
28Red Fish2310
29Opium Man933
30House Cat2718
31Parson’s Wife14
34Blind Man31
35Big Snake4

Body parts' mapping

#Body partName
1left hipCentipede
2right underarmold lady
3right ribscarriage
4right upperarmdead man
5left ribsparson man
6right breastbelly
8right shouldertiger
9left waistcattle
10right elbowmonkey
11left upper armcorbeau
12right earking (ti pan)
13right thighcrapeaud frog
14left earmoney (money ears)
15right footsick woman
16left elbowjamette
17left breastpigeon
18right wraistwater boat
20left shoulderdog
21right backmouth
22left footrat
23right wirsthouse
24right calfqueen (cocobey, cold or sores on the body)
25left calfmorocoy tortoise
27left wristlittle snake
28right handred fish
29left toesopium man
30right lower armhouse cat
31left kneeparson wife
32genitalsshrimps (loloman's penis)
33left handspider
34left backblind man
35right kneebig snake
36right hipdonkey (cat pan, anything used as bidet)

Stories based on combinations of numbers

1-16-291 Centipede (bar), 16 Jamette, 29 Opium Man (drunkard)Drunk man with jamette at a bar.
2-17-302 Old Lady, 17 Pigeon (young girl), 30 House Cat (house)Old lady living with young girl in a house.
3-18-313 Carriage (hearse), 18 Water Boat (coffin/hole), 31 Parson Wife (praying)A funeral. Only the dead person is missing.
4-19-324 Dead Man, 19 Horse (danger), 32 Shrimps (bullet)A shootout ending in death.
5-20-335 Parson Man, 20 Dog (bandit), 33 Spider (money)The parson earns money from funerals.
6-21-346 Belly (hole), 21 Mouth (hole), 34 Blind Man (cemetery)The dead is about to be buried.
7-22-357 Hog, 22 Rat, 35 Big SnakeBig snake looking for food: rat and hog.
8-23-368 Tiger (quarrelling), 23 House, 26 DonkeyQuarrelling going on in a house, behaving like a jack-ass.
9-24-19 Cattle (milk), 24 Queen, 1 Centipede (light)Queen/mother in the limelight.
10-25-210 Monkey (boy child), 25 Morocoy (fire), 2 Old LadyQuarrelling with mischievous boy child.
11-26-311 Corbeau, 26 Fowl, 3 Carriage (egg)Birds laying eggs.
12-27-412 King (saga), 27 Little Snake (road), 4 Dead ManA sweetman is a dead man walking.
13-28-513 Crapaud (girl child), 28 Red Fish (receiving gift), 5 Parson ManParson in a christening, receiving gift for the child.
14-29-614 Money, 29 Opium Man (drunkard), 6 Belly (hole)Drunk man wasting his money.
15-30-715 Sick Woman (pregnant woman), 30 House Cat (crying), 7 Hog (old man)Woman crying. She's pregnant for an older man.
16-31-816 Jamette, 31 Parson Wife (big jamette), 8 Tiger (bad/quarrelling)Two bad jamettes in a showdown.
17-32-917 Pigeon (young girl), 32 Shrimps, 9 Cattle (milk)Promiscuous, well-endowed girl.
18-33-1018 Water boat (river), 33 Spider (net, crab, shrimp), 10 Monkey (boy child)Boy playing by the river, catching crab and shrimp.
19-34-1119 Horse, 34 Blind Man (visitor), 11 Corbeau (police)Policeman on top horse, controlling the crowd.
20-35-1220 Dog, 35 Big Snake (road), 12 King (inspector, doctor)Big man walking his dog on the road.
21-36-1321 Mouth (talking), 36 donkey (laughing), 13 Crapaud (girl child) Girl child talking and laughing her head off.
22-1-1422 Rat (thief), 1 Centipede (small gun, knife, stick), 14 MoneyMoney thief.
23-2-1523 House (hospital), 2 Old Lady, 15 Sick WomanSick old woman in the hospital.
24-3-1624 Queen, 2 Carriage (car), 16 JametteBig time jamette in a fancy car.
25-4-1725 Morocoy (fire), 4 Dead Man (coffin), 17 Pigeon (crowd)Crowd at a cremation.
26-5-1826 Fowl (priest), 5 Parson Man, 18 Water BoatPriests on a journey.
27-6-1927 Little Snake, 6 Belly (hole), 19 Horse (danger)Horsewhip snake hiding in a hole.
28-7-2028 Red Fish (drinking rum), 7 Hog (sick/full bag), 20 Dog (boy child)Young man is drunk.
29-8-2129 Opium Man (drunkard), 8 Tiger ( quarrelling, temper), 21 MouthDrunk man with a foul mouth.
30-9-2230 House Cat, 9 Cattle (meat, milk), 22 Rat Rat and cat stealing food: meat and milk.
31-10-2331 Parson Wife (jamette), 10 Monkey (boy child), 23 HouseBig jamette with young man inside a house.
32-11-2432 Shrimps (male genitals), 11 Corbeau (pants), 24 QueenHigh society woman having an affair.
33-12-2533 Spider (bed), 12 King (saga boy), 25 Morocoy (fire)Sweetman hot like fire in bed.
34-13-2634 Blind Man, 13 Crapaud (hiding), 26 Fowl (crowd)Blind man peeping at crowd, pretending to be blind.
35-14-2735 Big Snake (long road), 14 Money, 27 Little Snake (short road)Money in the road.
36-15-2836 Donkey (female genitals), 15 Sick Woman, 28 Red Fish (blood)Menstruating woman.


Dictionary of Caribbean English usage By Jeannette Allsopp

whe-whe (wey-wey) ji'z/ [wewe] n (Trin) A privately run lottery in which any of 36 symbols or 'marks' are bought on impulse (often from dreams or superstitions); a 'banker' keeps the secret winning mark upon which when revealed, payment is made.